Hundreds Fired as Afghans Re-Screen Force

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Hundreds of Afghan troops have been fired since U.S. and Afghan leaders chose to rescreen the entire army and police force to weed out Taliban infiltrators and sympathizers as part of the effort to stop insider attacks on coalition forces.

The painstaking task of "re-vetting" the entire Afghan National Security Force will take up considerable resources and time, said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

"My intent is to drive down, defeat this (insider) threat," Terry said in a video briefing from Kabul to the Pentagon on Wednesday. "I can't tell you right now how long it's going to take."

Terry said about 200-300 Afghan troops had come under suspicion in the vetting thus far and had been sacked. He stressed that the screening process and the increased security precautions being implemented by allied troops would have no impact on the overall troop withdrawal schedule and the plan to transfer security responsibilities to the Afghans in 2014.

"Based on our investigations, hundreds of Afghan army soldiers have been detained and sacked from the army over the incident of insider attacks," Gen. Zahir Azimi, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, said at a news briefing in Kabul.

"This is a big concern for the Afghan president and the Afghan Defense Ministry," Azimi said of the vetting of the Afghan National Security Forces after attacks by Afghans in uniform killed 45 U.S. and allied troops this year, including 15 last month.

Since 2007, at least 114 allied troops, the vast majority of them American, have been killed by Afghans in uniform, according to the Defense Department.

U.S. Special Operations Forces troops suspended the training on Sept. 2 of about 1,000 recruits for local Afghan police militia units while their backgrounds were checked, NATO's International Security Assistance Force officials said.

The last of the 33,000 surge troops sent to Afghanistan by President Obama in 2010 should be withdrawn by mid or late September to bring U.S. troops strength in Afghanistan down to about 68,000, Terry said.

Terry said the surge troops "helped to break the momentum of the insurgents," and "the next step is to move the Afghan security forces into the lead."

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